Yesterday the American Academy of Pediatrics issued new guidelines for treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, expanding the age range at which the condition can be diagnosed to include kids as young as 4 years old all the way up to young adults aged 18. The previous guidelines, made a decade ago, limited diagnoses to kids ages 6 to 12. The physician group decided to make the change due to new evidence that ADHD symptoms can surface in preschool-aged children and persist later into adolescence and adulthood than previously recognized. The report says methylphenidate (Ritalin) may help control ADHD symptoms in children ages 4 and 5, though only one large study has been done to support this conclusion. The authors stress, however, that medication should only be given after behavioral modifications are attempted—and that Ritalin may have some serious possible side effects like irreversibly slowing growth.
Add one more to the list of environmental factors that could contribute to the rise in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): pesticides. A new study out in Pediatrics argues that there’s a connection between high exposure to common pesticides and increased risk for children developing ADHD.
Maryse Bouchard and colleagues looked at more than 1,100 children aged between 8 and 15. All of them had been sampled by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 2000 and 2004, and 119 had been diagnosed with ADHD. Bouchard’s team studied their urine samples for chemicals called dialkyl phosphates, which result from the breakdown of organophosphate pesticides used to protect fruits and vegetables.
For a 10-fold increase in one class of those compounds, the odds of ADHD increased by more than half. And for the most common breakdown product, called dimethyl triophosphate, the odds of ADHD almost doubled in kids with above-average levels compared to those without detectable levels [Reuters].
College students holed up in the library or cramming for an exam have always relied on stimulants like coffee, but recently they’ve been increasingly turning to the off-label use of drugs like Ritalin and Modafinil to help them stay focused. Now scientists have found how Ritalin, a drug normally prescribed for children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), helps boost learning.
In a new study of rats published online in Nature Neuroscience, scientists found that Ritalin appears to boost both attention and enhance the speed of learning by increasing the activity of the chemical messenger dopamine [Technology Review]. The study also found that one type of dopamine receptor aids the ability to focus, and another type improves the learning itself [DNA].
Kids suffering from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may have altered brain chemistry that prevents them from experiencing motivation and rewards like other people, according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Lead researcher Nora Volkow suggests that faulty transmission of the brain chemical dopamine may be to blame for the difficulty people with ADHD experience trying to finish tasks that have no immediate payoff — the difference between doing homework, for instance, and playing a video game [CBC News].
The researchers used PET brain scans to determine how the brains of people with and without ADHD handled the neurotransmitter dopamine, a versatile chemical that is involved in regulating mood, attention, and learning. In particular they measured levels of two proteins – dopamine receptors and transporters – without which dopamine cannot function effectively to influence mood. ADHD patients had lower levels of both proteins in two areas of the brain known as the nucleus accumbens and midbrain. Both form part of the limbic system, responsible for the emotions, and sensations such as motivation and reward [BBC News].
Kids are bouncing off the walls like never before. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) has become one of the most commonly diagnosed mental disorders in children, with about 4.4 million cases in the United States. But while medications like Ritalin are very effective in getting these kids to focus on their homework, some parents worry about the effects of long-term use, or have more amorphous concerns about suppressing their children’s personalities. It’s no wonder that more than half of these parents have experimented with alternative medicines and special diets.
Now, however, one of the leading contenders for an effective alternative medicine has been debunked in a new study. Researchers tested St. John’s wort, an herbal supplement that’s been adopted as an alternative treatment for ADHD and which is also used to treat depression. They found that children taking the herb fared no better than those taking a placebo pill.